Jimmy Savile’s fifty years as a relatable and charitable entertainer were a façade. Beneath the veneer lay a monster who sexually assaulted children, women, and reportedly, corpses. Jimmy Savile was depraved, and people suspected it, but few were willing to question him or investigate the inexcusable rumors surrounding Britain’s once-loved entertainer.
Savile, injured as a coal miner, possessed the knack for showbiz. He became a revered disc jockey and eventually found a route to television. The show Jim’ll Fix It was one of Britain’s most popular shows in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s. Savile raised around 40 million pounds for charities – he was a proper British idol.
Yet, today, his crimes overshadow his philanthropy and achievements in the entertainment arena.
Jimmy was questioned by police but was never arrested or prosecuted
Jimmy Savile’s depravity came to light following ITV’s October 2012 documentary Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile. The documentary painted Savile as a predator and sparked a criminal investigation dubbed Operation Yewtree.
Several months later, the London Metropolitan Police released a report labeling Savile a ‘prolific predatory’ sex offender. The report said that 214 criminal offenses were reported between 1955 and 2009, 73% involving children. Peter Watt of the NSPCC said:
“It’s clear Savile cunningly built his entire life into gaining access to vulnerable children. The sheer scale of Savile’s abuse over six decades simply beggars belief. But with this report we can at least show his victims that they have been taken seriously and their suffering has been recognized.”
Given the scale of Savile’s crimes, one would assume that some authority would have taken action when he was alive. Several police units launched investigations into Savile’s behavior, but the probes never resulted in prosecution.
Following a report of indecent assault at Duncroft school, Surrey, he was questioned under caution by Surrey police. He may have faced prosecution, but the accusers feared going to trial. Lacking enough evidence, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case.
Savile avoided prison because of his influence and connections
Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story on Netflix reveals that Savile had friends in very high places. He spent Christmas with Margaret Thatcher at her Chequers residence, advised and wrote speeches for Prince Charles, had the best legal representation, and police in his pocket.
These connections formed an invisible shield around Savile, one which became all too apparent to anyone who considered outing him.
The documentary shows that police officers in Leeds declined to investigate criminal allegations against Savile. Often, allegations against Jimmy were neither filed nor investigated.
Another reason people failed to speak out against Savile was his charity work. The Discovery+ documentary Jimmy Savile: The People Who Knew revealed many people knew about Savile’s predilection for young girls but kept quiet because of his monetary influence.
“It was very obvious that he was into very young girls,” David Bret, a former Leeds hospital worker, said. “The fundraising had a lot to do with why people didn’t speak up. He was raising a lot of money, he was a very big name, and to lose him meant losing money from the various charities that he was supporting, so had somebody blown the whistle on him then others would have suffered.”
Savile is believed to have abused 60 staff and children at Leeds, nearly a third of them being children. David opines that the hospital administration ‘was well aware of what was going on but just kept quiet.’
Even after his death, Jimmy remained a strong influence: Newsnight editor Peter Rippon halted Meirion Jones’ investigation against Savile after his death. The BBC later admitted that Rippon’s program knew Savile allegedly abused teenagers and had information to prove it.
Watching the documentary, you get the sense Savile knew what he was doing was wrong, but like the administrators who refused to say something, he opined that his charity work offset his sins.
Savile may have faced life imprisonment had he been prosecuted
Operation Yewtree by British authorities uncovered sexual assault allegations against other notable figures, including Rolf Harris and Max Clifford. Unlike Jimmy, Max and Rolf were alive – the sexual misconduct accusations sunk their careers and sent them to jail.
Rolf Harris was sentenced to five years and nine months for 12 indecent assaults on teenage girls. Max Clifford was sentenced to eight years for eight counts of indecent assault on four girls and women.
The 2013 report by British authorities found that Jimmy had committed sex offenses against 450 people. Applying Clifford’s sentence and assuming that he faced 450 counts of indecent assault, Savile would have gotten 450 years, the equivalent of life in prison.
Applying Rolf’s sentence to a similar number of charges, Jimmy would have faced 215 years in prison, again, the equivalent of a life term.
Death saved Jimmy Savile from a lengthy stint in prison, and to many, he escaped justice. A silver lining to the saga is that crimes similar to Savile’s no longer go undetected, and hopefully, we’ll never have another character like him.